Summary: Peter and John possessed a boldness in the face of hostility that inspires and motivates us to be faithful in our witness.
WHEN GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH was Vice President of the United States, he represented our nation at the funeral of former Soviet Communist leader, Leonid Brezhnev. He was deeply moved by the silent protest carried out by Brezhnev’s widow. She stood motionless by the coffin until seconds before it was closed. Then, just as the soldiers touched the lid, Brezhnev’s wife performed an act of great courage and hope, a gesture that must surely rank as one of the most profound acts of civil disobedience ever committed. She reached down and made the sign of the cross on her husband/s chest.
There in the citadel of secular, atheistic power, the wife of the man who had run it all hoped that her husband was wrong. She hoped that there was another life, and that that life was best represented by Jesus who died on the cross, and that the same Jesus might have mercy on her husband.
In the Book of Acts we also have an example of profound courage on the part of the apostles that left a deep impression. In the 13th verse of chapter 4, we read, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”
The Jewish elders, rulers, and teachers observed three things in these two apostles:
1. Their courage—courage to speak boldly to those who had the power of life and death over them.
2. That they were unschooled and ordinary men. That’s God’s way. He often uses the weak things of this world to confound the wise (I Corinthians 1:27-29). Consider how, in the Old Testament, we are told that He used:
- a staff (Moses)
- a jawbone (Samson)
- a stone (David)
- a handful of flour and a little oil (Elijah)
3. That they had been with Jesus (the Source of their boldness).
These two apostles stood before the Sanhedrin—70 leaders plus the high priest, who acted as president. Verse 5 tells us the they were composed of three groups:
o Rulers: chief priests of the temple
o Elders: tribal or family heads
o Scribes: experts in the Law of Moses
Verse 13 makes it clear that these leaders were “astonished” by what they observed. The KJV says they “marveled.” To be astonished means “to be filled with sudden wonder or amazement.”
These were ordinary men but they were speaking and acting like extra-ordinary men, especially as it related to speak God’s Word without fear of consequences. These apostles were not alone in their bravery. Consider…
o Joseph of Arimathea. He was a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God. He went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body (Mark 15:43).
o Paul & Barnabas. Act 14:3 tells us that they spent considerable time speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of His grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders.
o Paul. He entered the synagogue in Ephesus and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God (Acts 19:8).
In each case, the settings for these acts of courage was one of hostility and danger. Where did the boldness come from? That’s the key question here. The answer lies in Acts, chapter 4.
1. The Boldness of the Resurrection (vs.1-4)
Peter and John were eyewitnesses of the resurrection of Christ. They couldn’t keep silent. John wrote about it later in his first epistle: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched-- this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.”
To speak of bodily resurrection enraged the Sadducees, who did not believe that such a thing existed, so they threw them in jail.
You see, when you have a message of hope beyond this life, it cannot be contained. It must be proclaimed with conviction.
2. Boldness of the Holy Spirit (vs.5-8).
“The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: "By what power or what name did you do this?" Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: "Rulers and elders of the people!”